I have been meaning to tackle the criticism thrown at anarchists for taking part in demonstrations, such as today’s nationwide UK Uncut protests, as supposedly being hypocritical given their critique of the state. Consider the following tweet, where Old Holborn added his contribution at the end, relating to today’s protests:
Libertarians such as Old Holborn, and people from a variety of political persuasions, argue that anarchists cannot possibly support the anti-cut action. This argument is based on several false accusations.
For starters, it assumes that anarchism is a paradigm that purely wishes for people to be left to do as they please; autonomy over freedom as Bookchin would say. Before Bookchin divorced his association with anarchism in 2002, he warned that what he called lifestyle anarchism was eroding the tradition’s rich historical background. Anarchism’s roots go back to the likes of Kropotkin, who had an almost socialistic communal theoretical orientation. Nevertheless, there has always been the individualistic tendencies such as Emma Goldman within the tradition; every tradition has it’s different fractions.
I would claim to have anarchist tendencies, but what frustrates me is the reaction I get from many when I say this. Anarchism is often falsely equated to violence and disorder. This ignores the majority of anarchists who argue for a ordered steady alternative form of governance (public assemblies, for example) to counteract and replace the state.
There is nothing hypocritical about anarchists protesting against the state’s actions as a testament to the problems that state control can pose for society. Anarchists help illustrate the dangers of hierarchical societies and the imposition this can have upon people’s lives. Just because anarchists do not want the state as it is today, doesn’t mean they are unable to have a voice and protest. Do people such as Old Holborn expect anarchists to just passively do nothing, to avoid their actions being deemed ‘unanarchist’?
As mentioned, anarchists often want a different form of state. Therefore, campaigning against the state’s actions must be seen in a more specific context. It is a campaign against the neoliberal state. Anarchists that have strongly influenced me have advocated for a new form of governance, which could even be seen as a state (but not equated to one considering the negative conceptions anarchists attribute to the state). Even some ecosocialists such as Kovel have forms of governance that can even be equated to anarchism in style and praxis.
The suppression of an anarchist discourse is another example of how dominant discourse is reinforced and utilised to isolate ideas, culture and political economic relations that pose a direct challenge to the prevalent power structures. Anarchism is even portrayed as being a terrorist movement, as the media and mainstream political channels try to silence any musing of an alternative. There is nothing contradictory about anarchists campaigning for what they believe. They can protest against the state’s actions as a way to highlight the problems states can cause; nor should anarchists be all deemed as senseless individualists. Enclosure such as this needs to be resisted.